by Phoebe Carter-Swain - 20
The growth of a tree is matched by no other life on this planet. The way a woman flourishes through new experiences comes close though.
Twenty-eight, she stepped between huts in Accra, Ghana. Dusk’s air was cool and the spattering of insects had eased.
He sat outside his hut on a tree trunk, face filled with happiness. A pile of wood filled the doorway of his hut, all the creations he was yet to make.
Teeth, white, shone through a grin as he spoke to my mum. It was difficult to tell how old he was and the amount of life glinting in his eyes meant it didn’t matter. He just sat and worked away.
The smiling man carved the truest woman she had ever seen. Steady feet, calves, thighs curving into waist. His knife ran between a dip and it became backbone. In the semi-darkness, the wood was the same colour as his skin. His hands’ movements drew life into the being he was creating. Stretched above to blackening sky, breasts and shoulders strong with her arms holding a horn that she was ready to blow into. A candle would be melted into the horn’s rim.
Blade swept over grain, under bark, and the woman was finally finished. The man wanted to cover rough knife-strokes, polish them to smoothness.
“Leave her” Mum breathed. “She’s beautiful the way she is.”
Mum knew wood-bitten skin was purer when left unaltered. It was wisdom, truth and trust, to leave the story marked.
The woman was made from a tree, grown thick from the dirt of Ghana. Into the horn, she breathed with the same air that would fuel the fire placed in its top. This was the heat that had coursed through xylem and phloem in sunlight and the same that could burn the wood of her body to ash if Mum was not careful. The melted wax has dropped down to bring new shapes to her form.
In our lounge room, Mum’s carved Accra woman stands sure and tall as she did while reaching to the African skies twenty-two years before.